Raffaella Aversa, Laura Ricciotti, Valeria Perrotta, Antonio Apicella

Thermokinetic and Chemorheology of the Geopolymerization of an Alumina-Rich Alkaline-Activated Metakaolin in Isothermal and Dynamic Thermal Scans

  • Polymers and Plastics
  • General Chemistry

Alkaline sodium hydroxide/sodium silicate-activating high-purity metakaolin geopolymerization is described in terms of metakaolin deconstruction in tetrahedral hydrate silicate [O[Si(OH)3]]− and aluminate [Al(OH)4]− ionic precursors followed by their reassembling in linear and branched sialates monomers that randomly copolymerize into an irregular crosslinked aluminosilicate network. The novelty of the approach resides in the concurrent thermo-calorimetric (differential scanning calorimetry, DSC) and rheological (dynamic mechanical analysis, DMA) characterizations of the liquid slurry during the transformation into a gel and a structural glassy solid. Tests were run either in temperature scan (1 °C/min) or isothermal (20 °C, 30 °C, 40 °C) cure conditions. A Gaussian functions deconvolution method has been applied to the DSC multi-peak thermograms to separate the kinetic contributions of the oligomer’s concurrent reactions. DSC thermograms of all tested materials are well-fitted by a combination of three overlapping Gaussian curves that are associated with the initial linear low-molecular-weight (Mw) oligomers (P1) formation, oligomers branching into alumina-rich and silica-rich gels (P2), and inter- and intra-molecular crosslinking (P3). The loss factor has been used to define viscoelastic behavioral zones for each DMA rheo-thermogram operated in the same DSC thermal conditions. Macromolecular evolution and viscoelastic properties have been obtained by pairing the deconvoluted DSC thermograms with the viscoelastic behavioral zones of the DMA rheo-thermograms. Two main chemorheological behaviors have been identified relative to pre- and post-gelation separation of the viscoelastic liquid from the viscoelastic solid. Each comprises three behavioral zones, accounting for the concurrently occurring linear and branching oligomerization, aluminate-rich and silica-rich gel nucleations, crosslinking, and vitrification. A “rubbery plateau” in the loss factor path, observed for all the testing conditions, identifies a large behavioral transition zone dividing the incipient gelling liquid slurry from the material hard setting and vitrification.

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